3RFF Time! My Picks for the Three Rivers Film Festival with @PghFilmmakers

It’s NOVEMBER! Which means it is my BIRTHDAY MONTH and also time for the 3 Rivers Film Fest! The timing is hardly a coincidence, amirite? I have not yet pieced together my schedule for this much-anticipated events, but I have selected my “picks” for this year. This year is full of films I’d like to see, lots of dark, dramatic, thrilling films. Can’t wait!!

Are you attending the 3 Rivers Film Fest? What films will you be seeing?
Escobar: Paradise Lost


Starring Benicio del Toro (“Traffic”) and Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”) this absorbing drama, hot off the screens in Toronto, is that rare genre – a romantic drug thriller based on historical events. Told from the perspective of Nick, an innocent Canadian visiting Columbia, the story unfolds during the final years of Escobar’s reign. The young surfer falls in love with a beauty only to discover that her uncle is Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug kingpin. When Nick is invited to a party at a Xanadu-like fortress he finds himself entangled in a world of excess, corruption, and bloodshed.

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This eagerly awaited thriller – filmed across Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh – tells the mesmerizing story of what happens when Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), a 1984 Olympic champion, sees a way out from under the shadow of his more celebrated wrestling brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). When Mark is invited by eccentric millionaire John duPont (Steve Carell) to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, things go tragically wrong. The real-life crime drama from Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”) is also a gripping and profoundly American story of brotherly love, misguided loyalty, and moral bankruptcy. Film provided by Sony Pictures Classics.
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Human Capital
The time-fractured thriller begins with a fatal collision between a cyclist and an SUV on an inclement December night in Northern Italy. Flashbacks of events leading up to the incident – from three different vantage points – reveal the complex dynamics of two incidentally connected families, as well as the interplay between contrasting economic classes. Slick and stylish, this white-knuckle thriller is adapted from a best selling novel and is Italy’s official entry for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
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Listen Up Philip
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, and Jonathan Pryce, this quirky comedy focuses on a prickly, egocentric writer who grouses about a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend and is indifferent about promoting his own career. But he jumps at the offer to use a friend’s summer home as a getaway while he nervously awaits the publication of his second novel – a place where he finally gets peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject: himself.  A dark and literary comedy, it uses devices such as omniscient narration and shifts in perspective.
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Once Upon a Time Veronica
A finely tuned, sensual portrait of a woman’s conflicted entry into adulthood, this award-winning film is a thoroughly modern anti-fairy tale. Veronica is fresh out of medical school. It’s a crucial time in her life, a period filled with doubts and important decisions to be made: tough career choices, her close bond with her ailing father, and her active but chaotic love life. Built around a stunning central performance by Hermila Guedes, she presents an emotionally raw, psychologically-complex character. There are desires,adventures, and misfortunes – but no fairy godmothers.
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A Spell to Ward Off The Darkness


From pagan re-enactors to failed communes, black metal festivals to Arctic hermits, and the forever Golden Hour to the Northern Lights, this experimental documentary is an inquiry into the possibilities of a spiritual existence within an increasingly secular Western culture. We follow an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life: on a small Estonian island, in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland, and during a concert in Norway. Atmospheric, musically infused, it proposes a belief in transcendence. In English.

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Stop the Pounding Heart


Part of the New Directors/New Films series at Lincoln Center, this quietly moving film could not be further from the big city. Set in rural Texas, it’s an investigation into the inner life of a teenage girl — the state of her soul – as she falls for a boy from a vastly different background. Sara Carlson (playing herself) is part of a devout Christian goat-farming family with 12 children, all home-schooled and raised with moral guidance from the Scriptures (no phones, TVs, computers, or teen drinking). This drama, crafted in an intimate documentary-style, reveals Sara’s turmoil about her place in a faith that requires women to be subservient to their fathers and then their husbands.

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Featuring an outstanding performance from Dutch actress Gaite Jansen, Meis is a bored and frustrated 15-year-old living in the middle of nowhere with her working-class parents and grandmother. Although an adjacent country road makes a 90-degree turn, seemingly just inviting vehicles to crash into their run-down house, Meis waits for something – anything – to happen, while musing about the laws of physics and energy. This much-talked-about indie from the Berlin Film Festival is a spot-on portrait of restless adolescence.

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To Kill A Man


In this revenge thriller from Chile – the country’s official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film — a tranquil, middle-class family man is tormented, and later terrorized, by criminals in his neighborhood. Frustrated by the legal system’s bureaucracy, he eventually opts to take matters into his own hands when one of the outlaws threatens retribution after serving time in prison. Based on a true story, the drama focuses on the social and psychological consequences of committing the title act. Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

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Zero Motivation


A zany, dark comedic portrait of a unit of young, female Israeli soldiers, this indie has been wowing festival audiences this year. The human resources office at a remote desert base serves as the setting for this cast of characters who bide their time pushing paper, playing video games and staging office supply battles – counting down the minutes until they can return to civilian life. Handled with a sharp wit and abrupt shifts in tone, writer-director Talya Lavie dramatizes the boredom and personality conflicts, while exploring issues such as patriotism and friendship as well. Contains adult content.

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